The Difference Between Thoughts & Memories + How to Rewire Thoughts & Heal Painful Memories

In this podcast (#308) and blog, I am going to explain the difference between thoughts and memories, as this is a question I get a lot, and there seems to be quite a bit of confusion surrounding the topic!

We experience events and circumstances all the time—this is what it means to be immersed in life. We respond and react to events all day long and sort them into experiences while we sleep. This is what I call our “mind-in-action”, which makes a product: a thought. A thought is a real physical thing made of proteins and chemicals that occupies mental real estate in the brain as a tree-like structure on our neurons, and as gravitational fields in the mind, as well as in DNA in the body.

These thoughts look like trees, and, like a tree, are made of roots and branches. These are our memories—the “root” and “branch” memories. The thought itself is the concept, or the big idea. Inside the thought are the embedded memories. There can be any number of memories, thousands even, in one thought, just as there are hundreds or even thousands of branches and roots on a tree.

What all this means is that a thought tree is literally built into the brain as you use your mind in response to your experiences, or in other words, as you think, feel and choose in response to life. This means we as humans literally have trillions of thoughts, and how we build them and use them to function is what we talk about as memory or thought formation. For example, the thought could be “I am concerned about a family member”. There will be hundreds or perhaps thousands of memories related to this thought. The thought is the big picture, and the details of the thought are the memories.

There are three types of memories in a thought:

  1. Informational memories, which are all the details: the particulars, facts, data, associations, links, and so on associated with that thought. These are like the branches on a thought tree.
  2. Emotional memories, which are the feelings associated with the informational memories. These are like the leaves on the branches of a thought three.
  3. Physical memories, which are the physical embodiments of the sensations experienced at the time the thought was built. These are coupled with the emotional memories and informational memories.

Using the analogy of a tree, the thought is the big concept: the whole tree with the branches, leaves and roots. The roots are the source, the origin; for example, the book you are reading, the conversation you are having, this podcast you are listening to, and so on. The branches and leaves are how you interpret the information from your unique perspective, and how you will use the information (how it will manifest in your communication and behavior).

For more information on thoughts and memories, listen to my podcast (#308), and check out my latest book Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and my app Neurocycle. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).  

To learn more about how to manage your mental health and help others, join me at our 7th Annual Mental Health Solutions Retreat, December 2-4, 2021! The core focus of this conference is to give you simple, practical, applicable, scalable, and scientific solutions to help you take back control of your mental health, help others, and make impactful changes in your community. You will also learn how to manage the day-to-day stressors of life as well as those acute stressors that blindside us. Our goal is to address your most pressing mental health concerns, help you find answers, and equip you with the knowledge and resources you need to make the change from a life of barely surviving to one where you are thriving. Register today at! 

This podcast is sponsored by: 

BetterHelp, an amazing company that can assess your needs and match you with your own licensed professional therapist so that you can start communicating in under 48 hours! BetterHelp is not a crisis line, it’s not self-help…it is professional counseling done securely online! They also have a broad range of expertise available which may not be locally available in many areas, and their services are available for clients worldwide. Visit, and join the over 1,000,000 people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional. In fact, so many people have been using BetterHELP that they are recruiting additional counselors in all 50 states! I am proud to say that this podcast is sponsored by BetterHelp, and Cleaning Up the Mental Mess listeners get 10% off their first month at 

Blinkist, one of my favorite ways to pass the time while exercising and build my brain, which improves mental resilience! To get your free week on Blinkist AND 25% off your subscription see:

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Podcast Highlights

2:30 What is a thought? 

2:45, 5:30, 10:00 What are memories?

3:30 How thoughts grow 

4:00, 8:10 Thoughts are like trees with roots & branches, which are memories

5:50 What happens when a thought is activated 

8:20, 13:30 How your unique way of thinking shapes your memories

13:00 Whatever you think about the most grows!

13:40 The three types of memories 

16:00 Memories as data & perceptions 

19:25, 28:00 How thoughts with their memories impact our brain, mind & body 

23:00 How toxic thoughts impact our overall wellbeing 

29:00 What does it mean to recall a memory? 

29:50 Memories are limitless

30:15 How many thoughts do we think in a day?

This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.

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